Lovely Linen

Jen McCabe from Honey Kennedy's bedroom

My name is Jennifer Colette McCabe and I am a linen bedding addict. OK, it’s not just bedding–I also love linen clothing, upholstery, curtains, napkins, towels, bags and even shoes. Today, I’ll just focus on bedding though, OK? OK. Also, please note that I am not in recovery for my linen addiction–I have no desire to kick this comfy habit. Ever.

My bedding addiction started years ago, after a particularly brutal breakup when I decided that I was going to ‘take back the night’ and turn my bed into a luxurious retreat instead of a place for sobbing and feeling lonely. I bought two sets of soft cotton Ralph Lauren sheets, some Donna Karan pillowcases, a much nicer duvet cover and even a featherbed. It took a while to pay off that credit card transaction, but it was LIFE CHANGING. Thread count was my new boyfriend and he really knew how to treat a lady.

Seriously though, I think turning my bedroom into a magical place helped me heal my broken heart more quickly than I would have without the transformation. It also felt good to take care of and look out for myself in that way. Even though I’d taken care of myself completely independently since I was 17 years old, I think this was the first time I’d really invested in my own physical and mental well-being and that felt liberating from my own tendency to wallow in the minutiae of heartbreak or drown in anxiety. I think it also helped me keep my heart open to the possibility of falling in love again and sharing that space.

So, that’s the story of when good bedding became important to me. When I say “good”, I don’t necessarily mean expensive–you can get lucky and find fine linens for not very much money. I do admit that, while I am not a wealthy person, I do prioritize the expense of beautiful new bed linens from time to time. The addiction that started simply with nice cotton has moved into a stonewashed linen zone over the past 4 years or so. I just really love the drape and casual elegance of washed linen. I’ve had a lot of readers and friends email or text me to ask me my bedding advice and recommendations after I’ve posted images of my bedrooms, so I thought I would write out some ideas for building a nice little linen bedding collection.

honey-kennedy-linen-sheets-Ditte Isager-for-vogue

WHAT I BUY

To date, I have not purchased any flat or fitted linen sheets. For now, I stick with 100% cotton sheets–usually from West Elm or department stores. I usually choose neutral or muted colors that can mix and match with what we already own, but sometimes a sweet floral, dots or stripes will catch my eye. I may eventually indulge, but for some reason I think I’d be more likely to save up for plain cotton flat and fitted sheets in a higher thread count.

For pure linen, I stick with a variety of standard pillowcases, king cases, euro pillowcases, duvet covers, cushion covers and throw blankets. I love the way an assortment of colors and eras looks layered together.

WHERE I SHOP

Alder & Co.: This is one of my favorite shops in Portland and I have a small collection of lovely French linen pillowcases in soft, muted colors that I’ve purchased or been given as gifts over the years. I would love one of their duvet covers someday or one of their lovely linen throws.

Estate sales: You’d be surprised how good your odds are for finding nice linen and really soft high quality cotton at estate sales. I usually just find pillowcases and table linens and sometimes flat sheets (rarely larger than full–mattresses are much bigger nowadays), but you could stumble on a linen goldmine. Just make your way to the bedroom and the linen closet is usually close by. Just dig around a bit, but not in Portland because I will straight up tackle you to the ground. Trust.

Garnet Hill: Over a year ago, I started stalking the Eileen Fisher washed linen bedding that they carry at Garnet Hill–they had the sweetest light pink color called ‘rosewater’, so when they announced a 30% off code–I pounced on a set of pillowcases. I ended up really loving them–they are super soft and the cases are nice and large. They have a lovely drape to them. I’ve since purchased a couple more pillowcases and a duvet cover. They seem to have sales every few months and they are having a bedding sale right now through March 31.

Ikea: You have to dig and then wait for linen pieces at Ikea, but they do come up. In the past I’ve found a white linen duvet cover, euro pillow covers in 100% ramie (natural fiber that resembles linen) and linen throw blankets. Snap them up when you see them here because once they are gone you will probably never see them again. Just do a good scan of the bedding section and read the care labels for fabric content. Also check the area with throw blankets and throw pillow covers–that’s where I found the nice linen euro shams and throw blankets.

Pottery Barn: This is another place that you have to dig, but sometimes linen things pop up. If you are looking online just search “linen” and scan through what’s available to see if anything catches your eye. These linen sheet sets are kind of tempting. I bought a duvet cover and some pretty linen pillowcases there from their new collection with a Christmas gift card from my mom a couple months ago. The duvet cover is a cotton/linen blend and it feels really well-made. The buttons along the bottom are really secure (which is surprisingly rare) and there are ties inside to help secure your comforter–this is always a big plus.

Antiques malls, vintage shops & Etsy: Just rummage around in the big stacks of linens you find in antiques dealers spaces–you will get lucky sometimes. Also, this is less competitive than estate sales. Again, it will likely be linen pillowcases and table linens, but they might be real beauties. Same thing with digging around on Etsy–you might get lucky and find intricate Irish linen or other dreamy linen pieces.

Traveling: I haven’t done it yet, but I love the idea of picking up pretty linens while traveling in other countries or regions. Especially if you’re in places that are known for their beautiful textiles. ♥

honey-kennedy-alder-and-co-linen-pillowcases-blush

IMAGE CREDITS: 1. My bedroom. Photo by Lauren Bamford for Yen Magazine. 2. Ditte Isager for Vogue. 3. French linen pillowcases from Alder & Co.

Comments
18 Responses to “Lovely Linen”
  1. This post is magic! I am going to bookmark it for future use. (I have been loving my German and Portuguese-made flannel sheets from Garnet Hill this winter…and spring.)

    • Jen McCabe says:

      Nice! I wish I could use flannel. I always overheat and wake up in the middle of the night completely parched. I’m convinced they somehow suck all the moisture out of my body.

  2. Laura W says:

    hey girl! So I have a related question – how many pillows do you recommend for a proper bed? :) I have a full size bed and all the bigger ones I see have tons on them. I only have two at the moment, and am thinking some more might be nice for propping up and reading in bed.
    Thanks for all the linen resources – a linen duvet cover is on my “to-buy” list for this summer. I’ve been saving up for ages!

    • Jen McCabe says:

      I’d probably put 4 pillows on a full. That’s what we had on our old guest bed that was a full, but I’m really into pillows. We have feather pillows of varying firmness. I just really like to create a comfy nest to relax and read or even work sometimes. I have 6 on our queen bed–which I know is cuckoo. I like how inviting it looks and it feels luxurious to climb in. We just set the excess pillows on a nearby stool when we go to sleep.

  3. allison b-t says:

    i love your break-up recovery by way of bedding story so much! what an ingenious method for healing your heart and upping your comfort factor!

    i bought my first decent bedding in my early 20′s: high thread count egyptian cotton that i still can’t bear to part with- despite being full of holes now- as well as a feather bed. unfortunately, i discovered a few years ago that i’m allergic to goose-down so away to storage went my feather bed and feather duvet but man were they comfy!!

  4. Lucie says:

    Those alder and co linen pillow cases… <3____<3 I'm pining for them.

  5. Suzanne says:

    Love the Alder and Co pillow cases. Definitely on my wish list. Loved your post. Thanks Jen.

  6. Sarai says:

    Linen rules! I love how durable it is (speaking as someone whose pets inhabit the bed 99% of the time).

    One more suggestion…This is one area where sewing can save you a ton of money! I recently made a bunch of linen pillowcases (2 shams, 4 regular cases) in various muted shades, some with antique trims or fancy hemstitching. One has gold lurex threads woven through.

    The cost breakdown is probably somewhere around $5/each, and they are super fast and easy too.

    • Jen McCabe says:

      Maybe we can make some sometime! That would be fun after our dye class. Did you buy the fabric new or did you repurpose old linen sheets?

      • Sarai says:

        I bought it new. Mill End has a ton of linen, probably 50 or more colors/weights. It’s actually on sale right now! It’s usually 60″ wide, so you can squeeze a lot from a small amount of yardage!

  7. Kylie says:

    I love your story and I thank you for posting links to quality bed linens. I love the ones from Garnet Hill. Someday I will invest! Proper bedding is only something I’ve recently been really into and it’s nice to know I’m not the only one…

  8. Gah I’m so happy to hear someone else has the same obsession! I just bought 10 yards of black linen for our bedspread, and now I have a bunch of new places to check out to finish the look! Quality bedding makes my heart race :)

  9. Thuha says:

    This was an excellent and much appreciated post. I also find joy and comfort in purchasing nice cotton bedding, but have yet to splurge on linen…I think I will now. Do you iron your bedding/linens? I always feel like I should take the time to do so, but rarely accomplish this task.

  10. Jennifer says:

    I am obsessed with this post!

  11. Rachel says:

    Thanks for the lovely post! Don’t know if your familiar w/ but if not you should check out: http://www.roughlinen.com/ork_duvet_solo.html – I just discovered them thru Remodelista. Now I’m dying to go check out my local estate sales – not in Portland :)

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